Recipe: Orange Chicken and Kale Stir-Fry

Recipe: Orange Chicken and Kale Stir-Fry

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Elizabeth Stark
Jan 4, 2017
(Image credit: Elizabeth Stark)

A staple of Chinese-American takeout, orange chicken typically features lightly breaded chicken doused in a sticky-sweet orange sauce. Craving the bright flavors of traditional orange chicken, but not necessarily all the steps, I reimagined the classic recipe as a super-quick (yet more wholesome) weeknight stir-fry.

(Image credit: Elizabeth Stark)

Instead of a sticky sauce with added sugar, my recipe harnesses the natural sweetness of a peak-season navel orange. In the wok, a simple sauce of orange zest and freshly squeezed juice, soy sauce, and cornstarch melds into the stir-fried chicken and greens, for a lightning-quick dinner that simultaneously strikes sweet and (deliciously) bitter flavor notes.

A great stir-fry requires an extremely hot wok. After your ingredients are prepped, preheat the wok over high heat for about three minutes. When a drop of water bounces around on the scorching surface, you're ready to cook. If you're stovetop is lacking in BTUs, consider cooking the chicken in two batches; this will keep the wok hot and ensure the stir-fry cooks correctly.

(Image credit: Elizabeth Stark)

Next, you'll want a very thin coating of a neutral oil with a high smoke point on hand — safflower and peanut oil are good options. Working quickly, add the oil, turn the wok to coat, and toss in the onions, garlic, and ginger.

Finally, you'll sear the chicken, and then add the greens and sauce. It all thickens quickly and is ready in less time than it takes to make a batch of white rice.

Orange Chicken and Kale Stir-Fry

Serves 4

2 to 3 medium oranges
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch-wide strips
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons heat-tolerant neutral cooking oil, such as safflower or peanut
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
2 small dried red chilies, such as Thai chilies
1 bunch lacinato kale, tough inner stems removed and leaves cut into 1-inch strips
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Cooked white or brown rice, for serving

Finely zest one of the oranges and place the zest in a small bowl. Juice the orange, and then juice a second orange if needed to have 1/2 cup of juice. Add the juice, soy sauce, and cornstarch to the bowl of zest and whisk together with a fork; set aside.

Segment the third orange and reserve the segments. Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with the salt; set aside.

Set a wok over high heat and heat for 3 minutes. The wok is hot enough when a drop of water bounces off the surface. Working quickly, add the oil, turn pan to coat with oil, and then add the onion, garlic, ginger, and dried chilies. Cook, stirring constantly, until starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the kale. Stir the orange sauce again and add to the wok. Cook until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat. Serve over white or brown rice and top with the scallions and reserved orange segments.

Recipe Notes

  • Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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